2008-12-12 / School News

CFE: Maintain Promise To City's Schoolchildren

The New York State Board of Regents released its state school aid proposal today calling for $879 million in new school aid in 2009, a 4.1% increase. The proposal includes a $586 million increase in foundation aid, $58 million in new funding for Pre-K and $44 million in Academic Enhancement Aid towards complying with the court ordered commitment to provide every child the right to a quality education. In 2007 the legislature and the governor enacted a commitment to phase-in a $7 billion increase in school aid over four-years as a settlement to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. The Regents proposal protects two centerpieces of the CFE settlement: the foundation formula that provides for fair funding distribution and the Contract for Excellence accountability system.

"By proposing $879 million in increased school aid this year, the Board of Regents is providing the type of leadership our school children need in these difficult economic times," said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. "While the amount proposed by the Regents is less than amount that is due to school kids this year under the CFE settlement, the Regents have drawn a line in the sand that says New York State must provide a serious commitment to our school children even in a fiscal crisis. The Regents proposal essentially covers a little more than the normal inflationary costs needed to let school districts maintain existing programs. If the Governor proposes anything less school kids will face cuts in education programs. The Regents proposal underscores the need for the Governor to advance serious revenue proposals, such as tax increases on the state's highest income earners, as part of a balanced and responsible approach to the state budget. If the Governor fails to provide at least as much aid as the Regents have proposed it will not only turn the clock back for school kids, it passes the buck on the costs of education down to local homeowners."

"Governor Paterson should heed the call of the Regents and look at their proposal as a floor, not a ceiling on the payment due on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement this year," said Helaine Doran, Deputy Director, Campaign for Fiscal Equity. "We have a court ordered settlement and it must be met — the Regents' proposal provides about half of what is due this year. Governor Paterson must prioritize building onto the Regents proposal and not backing away from our school children as his recent letter to school boards and superintendents around the state suggested he may do."

The Regents are also proposing legislative changes to protect the increased investments the state has made in our schools these past two years by strengthening accountability under the Contracts for Excellence. The Contracts for Excellence have successfully reduced class sizes, created tutoring and after school programs and other key reforms that have focused resources on the neediest students. Without the legislative changes proposed by the Regents the new moneys invested in the past two years would not be subject to the accountability measures of the Contract for Excellence.

"Money and accountability have always gone hand-in-hand throughout the CFE struggle," said Helaine Doran. "Without the legislative changes proposed by the Regents, more than $billion invested in Contract for Excellence programs in the past year would no longer be subject to the scrutiny of the Contract. The $44 million in Academic Enhancement Aid will help maintain the Contract for Excellence programs by paying for the inflationary costs of these reforms."

The Regents proposal would distribute 78% of new funds to high need districts— including high need large cities, small cities, suburbs and rural districts.

"The Regents wisely prioritize the neediest students and school districts during these most difficult fiscal times — students who have gone the longest with the least should be at the head of the class when it comes to prioritizing how New York State distributes funding in a tight budget," said Easton.

The Regents propose $58 million in new Pre-K funding. In 2007 and 2008 New York State increased Pre-K funding for the first time in seven years.

"The Regents are saying we must continue to expand Pre-K right now. Speaker Silver and the Assembly have always championed Pre-K, we hope Governor Paterson's budget will provide more four-year old access to Pre- K. It is among the most cost effective and successful educational programs," said Easton.

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